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Remember the Red River Valley


The Bleau-Baldwins, Native Resistance, and the Métis Diaspora, 1700s-1880s


 (page in progress)

•  Guiding Questions
•  Introduction
•  the big picture, 1500s-1800s
•  From Northern Alabama to Northern Mn
•  Indian Wars & Treaties, 1850s-1870s
•  The Red River Rebellion, 1869-1870
•  MÉtis histories & Cultures
•  the MÉtis Diaspora, 1860s-1890s
•  remember the red river valley
•  Conclusion
•  next chapter

Guiding Questions


How do we best understand the histories and cultures of the Sioux, Ojibwe, and Métis peoples of the Red River Valley and its environs in the second half of the 19th century?  What caused the Métis diaspora?  Why did Marguerite, Aiken, Felix, Louis, & other members of their family & community to migrate to St Paul, then Anoka, then Minneapolis from the late 1840s to the late 1870s?  What were the larger social and cultural contexts that shaped the lives of the people on whom we're focusing in these pages?



    This page represents our first stab at coming to grips with our abysmal ignorance about the early history of St. Paul, the Red River Valley, and all the points in between.  Even though we grew up in St. Paul, until recently we remained scandalously ill-informed about the city and region's colorful past.  You could fit into one of Grandma's thimbles everything we learned as kids about the history of the Métis and Native peoples and cultures of the Red River Valley and its environs.  Same with the history of St Paul, nearby Fort Snelling, and a bit upriver, the village of St Anthony Falls, soon to become Minneapolis.  Fortunately for us, it's never too late to learn.  (Detail of 1854 plat map showing the village of St Paul, Minnesota Territory,

     Right now this page is still embryonic; there's a lot of holes and research and writing yet to do before it begins to take shape.  But it's a start. 

     We begin with excerpts from a broad-ranging and critically acclaimed piece of scholarship by the historical geographer D. W. Meinig that help to situate the early history of St Paul and the Red River Valley within the broader context of the struggles for empire between Britain and the United States that were shaping North America in the 1840s and 1850s.  We then move forward in time and (at this point) present a hodgepodge of items that we hope will prove useful in addressing the questions posed above.

    Meanwhile, if you want to listen to a cheesy but endearing version of the melody of the song Remember the Red River Valley while you read this page, go offsite to


The Big Picture British and American Contests for Empire in North America in the 18th and 19th Centuries

     To summarize Meinig's argument, the early 1800s saw across North America an intensification of struggles for land and commerce among the rapidly growing United States, the colonies of Upper and Lower Canada, and Native peoples.  The Canadas (Upper and Lower), centered on the St Lawrence River and oriented toward Britain, were the focal point of trading networks that extended across vast stretches of North America, especially Rupert's Land, controlled by Hudson's Bay Company.  From Ontario to Oregon, the Americans and British waged their contest for land, trade, and empire -- against both each other and the many Indian groups trying to hang onto their ancestral lands and lifeways.

The North American West, from D. W. Meinig, The Shaping of America, vol. 2, p. 64.  Note "Rupert's Land" (a vast concession controlled by the Hudson's Bay Company) to the north of the U.S.-claimed Louisiana Territory.  Note also the "Selkirk Grant," centered on the Red River of the North and Lake of the Woods.  This area was sometimes called "Assiniboia," named after the river that flows into the Red River west of the Lake of the Woods. 



The Selkirk Grant, or Assiniboia, centered on the confluence of the Assiniboine River and the Red River of the North, from D. W. Meinig, The Shaping of America, vol. 2, p. 64.


     Meinig first traces this conflict across North America from the early 1500s to the early 1800s.  After detailing the history of the Pacific Northwest and the fallout from the War of 1812, he turns to the region that later became the Minnesota Territory (1849) and the State of Minnesota (May 1858). 

     The late 1840s and early 1850s, Meinig shows, was a period of major changes across the region, especially in the Red River Valley and St. Paul.  The rapidly growing settlement on the Mississippi River, oriented southward toward Prairie du Chien, St. Louis, and New Orleans, was ideally located to attract the trade and commerce of the Red River -- a river flowing north, not south, emptying into the Lake of the Woods (sometimes called the "sixth Great Lake"), which in turn flows into Lake Superior, waterway to the Atlantic.  A ribbon of settlements was strung out along the Red River, at the southern tip of which lay the town of Pembina.  (Sketch of Pembina settlement, Red River, John Fleming, 1857,

     In the mid-1840s, enterprising traders and merchants in St. Paul saw an opportunity in opening overland cart-trade with Pembina, and they took it.  Residents of the Red River also saw many advantages in redirecting their trade southward.  The end result was that Pembina stopped looking north and started looking south -- away from the French trade networks in the Great Lakes and Canada, and toward the the Mississippi River and the network of roads and railways linking the Upper Mississippi to markets in the South and East.  (Métis cart traders resting along the trail between Pembina & St Paul, ca. 1855,

     In 1845, Bailey T. Baldwin, 25 years old and recently arrived from Alabama, was among the small but growing number of enterprising traders to take advantage of this growing overland cart-trade between St. Paul and Pembina.


From D. W. Meinig, The Shaping of America:  A Geographical Perspective on 500 Years of History, vol. 2, Continental America, 1800-1867  (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993), pp. 220-222.


     Tensions among the Hudson's Bay Company, the British government, and settlers arising from uneasiness over American pressures along the international boundary were not confined to the Northwest Coast.  In the Red River Basin, American traders became much more aggressive in luring trade from Assiniboia to markets south of the border.  By the early 1840s rival American and Hudson's Bay Company posts were spaced along the boundary from Grand Portage to Turtle Mountain.  Pembina, the old métis cluster on Red River just south of the line, was the main focus of tensions (fig. 14). 

Map from D. W. Meinig, The Shaping of America, vol. 2. p. 121.


     The Hudson's Bay Company attempted to enforce its monopoly over all fur trade within its territories, but American traders paid two to four times the price for furs and robes and the métis had no strong allegiance to the company.  As hunters, traders, and settlers, they were indifferent to invisible boundaries drawn across the uniformities of nature, and they were very difficult to police. 

     In 1843 the first in what soon became a rapidly expanding line of Red River carts carried a load of furs and robes from Pembina to Mendota, a hamlet in the shadow of Fort Snelling, the American military post on the upper Mississippi.  A loose cluster of settlements had grown up here around the mouth of the Minnesota River and the Falls of St. Anthony in the Big Woods (mixed hardwood forest) just beyond the edge of the prairies.  The first settlers here were in fact Selkirk Colony refugees:  métis, and Swiss and other soldier-colonists who had left during various difficulties in the colony.  Together with the American Fur Company personnel (many of whom were Scots or French of Canadian origins) such people made this connection a natural social and commercial link without strongly conscious political implications. 

     In 1844 the Hudson's Bay Company attempted to stamp out this illegal diversion, and as tensions with the United States over Oregon and other issues flared, three companies of British soldiers were sent to Assiniboia by way of York Factory and gave tacit military support to the company's house searches, seizures, and other efforts to suppress smuggling (the company even tried to insist on inspecting all mail).  When the international situation eased, these soldiers were withdrawn, and a year later a body of armed métis so directly intimidated the local court in the trial of a convicted smuggler that no punishment was exacted.  From this point on the company gave up its enforcement campaign, and this de facto end of its trading monopoly in Assiniboia was recognized and celebrated on both sides of the border.

     At midcentury the geopolitical future of Assiniboia was quite uncertain and attracting a variety of interests.  It was a considerably more substantial colony with an obviously greater potential than had been apparent in the Selkirk days.  More than 5,000 settlers were aligned in their narrow lots along the Red River all the way to the border and along the Assiniboine to Portage la Prairie (edging there into higher, drier soils that were proving good for grain).  It was still very remote and facilities were limited, but there were mills (including several windmills) and an agricultural improvement society, a public library, and more schools and churches (the Roman Catholics and the Anglicans each had a cathedral here serving an extensive diocese), and there was a nucleus of educated leaders among the Scots, English, French Canadians, and metis who were beginning to look beyond the fading paternalism of the Hudson's Bay Company toward some other political arrangement.

     One possibility was the creation of a British Crown Colony, as had just been done for Vancouver Island, maintaining the Red River--Hudson Bay--London link as a direct governmental, rather than company, tie.  However, despite the continuance of that old commercial orientation, by the 1850s much the most flourishing link was south to St. Paul.  Every year now several hundred Red River carts screeched across the plains to that booming town below the falls (declared by a British visitor to be "the best specimen to be found in the States of a town still in its infancy with a great future before it"), where the steamboats came upriver from Prairie du Chien, Dubuque, or Galena serving the settlers surging up the Mississippi in the wake of the withdrawal of the Sioux from the Big Woods and adjacent prairies of the new Territory of Minnesota (1849). 

     Mail, machinery, and all manner of goods could be brought to Pembina and Assiniboia far more efficiently than by the laborious old waterways of the northern woods, and the facilities were being extended and improved every year.  Railroads were reaching west from Chicago, steamboats began coming all the way up from St. Louis, and a stage line connected St. Paul to Sauk Rapids. 

    In 1855 George Simpson reluctantly reported to the governor and committee that the New York--St. Paul route would now prove far superior to York Factory for the Venerable Company itself even though it risked the interception of the fur business by the American metropolis.  And the booming sales at the Sauk Rapids land office were portentous for a vast region.  The territory of Wisconsin, created in 1836 and admitted as a state twelve years later, now had more than 300,000 citizens, and the geopolitical implications of that wave spreading into Minnesota became a matter of intense speculation on both sides of the international line. . . .



    Thus we see that by the mid-1850s, the Red River Valley's re-orientation southward, away from the Great Lakes and toward St Paul, was well underway.  Bailey & Margaret Baldwin and their families were an intimate part of this larger process.  In fact they lived it.


From Northern Alabama to Northern Minnesota

    These contexts established, let's go further back in time, to the place of Bailey T. Baldwin's birth.

     Bailey said in his pension papers that he was born in "Madison City," Alabama in 1820.  Below appears a section of one of Meinig's maps showing the Southern United States in the early 1800s, with the location of "Madison City" indicated (called "Madison Crossroads" in an 1895 atlas, a tiny hamlet in the northern Alabama piedmont, just north of the Tennessee River, in what is now Madison County.  Bailey must've had a wicked sense of humor to call his birthplace a "city"). 


Excerpt of map of the "Southern Borderlands" of North America, with "Madison City," Alabama, indicated; adapted from D. W. Meinig, The Shaping of America, p. 25


     The little finger of land jutting into the Tennessee-Alabama borderlands shows that the area around Bailey's hometown was just starting to be settled by Anglo Americans around 1820, the year of Bailey's birth.  Note, too, the tremendous complexity of the period -- which this map vastly (and necessarily) oversimplifies -- with competing claims for land by Anglos, numerous Indian groups, and the Spanish.  In 1803, less than 20 years before Bailey's birth, the vast French territory of Louisiana was purchased by the United States, effectively doubling the size of the young Republic. 

     Recall that Bailey T. Baldwin was born around 1819.  This was immediately after a series of extremely violent and tumultuous episodes throughout this region.  Here we present an excerpt from a standard college textbook on US history summarizing these very complex events:

Patterns of Armed Resistance: The Shawnee and the Creek

     Not all tribes of the interior proved so accommodating to white expansion [as the Cherokee].  Faced with growing threats to their political and cultural survival, the Shawnee and Creek nations rose in armed resistance.  Conflict was smoldering as the nineteenth century began; it burst into open flame during the War of 1812.

     In the late 1780s, chieftains such as Little Turtle of the Miami and Blue Jacket of the Shawnee had led a series of devastating raids across Indiana, Ohio, and western Pennsylvania, creating panic among white settlers and openly challenging the federal government's control of the Old Northwest.  After two failed federal efforts to quell the uprising had failed, President Washington determined to smash the Indians' resistance once and for all.  In the autumn of 1793, General Anthony Wayne led a new army of conquest into the Ohio wilderness.  The following year, Wayne's army clashed with over 2,000 Indian warriors in the decisive Battle of Fallen Timbers.  After the smoke of the battle had cleared, Wayne wrung from the defeated chiefs the Treaty of Greenville an agreement ceding the southern two-thirds of Ohio.  It was the largest single transfer of Indian land yet, and it opened the heart of the Old Northwest to white control.

     In subsequent years, additional treaties further reduced the Indians' land base, driving the Shawnee and Delaware, the Miami and Wyandotte more tightly in upon each other.  By 1809, two Shawnee leaders, the brothers Tecumseh and Elskwatawa, the latter known to whites as 'the Prophet,' were traveling among the region's tribes warning of their common dangers and forging an alliance against the invading whites.  They established headquarters at an ancient Indian town named Kithitippecanoe in northern Indiana.  Soon it became a gathering point for Native Americans across the entire region as they responded to the messages of cultural pride, land retention, and pan-Indian resistance presented by the Shawnee brothers.

     Between 1809 and 1811, Tecumseh carried his message of Indian nationalism and military resistance south the the Creek and Cherokee.  His speeches rang with bitter denunciations of white Americans.  "The white race is a wicked race," he told his listeners.   "Since the days when the white race first came in contact with the red men, there has been a continual series of aggressions.  The hunting grounds are fast disappearing, and they are driving the red men farther and farther to the west . . . The only hope . . . is a war of extermination against the paleface."  The southern tribes refused to join, but by 1811, over 1,000 fighting men had gathered at Kithtippecanoe.

     Alarmed by the Indians' growing militancy, the governor of the Indiana Territory, William Henry Harrison, surrounded the Indian stronghold with a force of 1,000 soldiers.  He carried with him full authority from the secretary of war to do whatever was necessary to secure the frontier.  At dawn on November 7, 1811, 400 Indian warriors assaulted Harrison's lines.  For hours the battle raged, and at day's end Harrison counted over 150 warriors dead and countless others wounded.  Before retiring to the territorial capital at Vincennes, he burned Kithtippecanoe to the ground.

     Over the next several months, Tecumseh's followers, taking advantage of the recent outbreak of the War of 1812 between the United States and England and aided by British troops from Canada, carried out devastating raids across Indiana and southern Michigan.  Together they crushed American armies at Detroit and Fort Nelson and followed up with forays against Fort Wayne.  At the Battle of the Thames near Detroit, the tide turned, for there Harrison inflicted a grievous defeat on a combined British and Indian force.  Among those slain was Tecumseh.

     The American victory at the Thames signaled the collapse of Tecumseh's confederacy and an end to Indian resistance in the Old Northwest.  Beginning in 1815, American setters surged once more across Ohio and Indiana, only now they pressed on into Illinois and Michigan.  The balance of power in the Old Northwest had permanently shifted.

     To the south, the Creek challenged white intruders with similar militancy.  As the nineteenth century began, white settlers were pushing onto Creek lands in northwestern Georgia and central Alabama.  While some Creek leaders urged accommodation, others, called Red Sticks, prepared to fight.  The embers of this smoldering conflict were fanned into flame by an aggressive Tennessee militia commander named Andrew Jackson.  Citing Creek atrocities "which bring fresh to our recollection the influence . . . that raised the scalping knife and tomahawk against our defenseless women and children," Jackson in 1808 urged President Jefferson to endorse a campaign against the Creek.  The Tennessee militia, Jackson reported, "pant for the orders of our government to punish a ruthless foe."

     Bristling at their treatment by Georgia and Alabama, the Red Sticks carried out a series of frontier raids in the spring and summer of 1813, killing and scalping two white families and taking one woman captive.  They capped their campaign with an assault on Fort Mims on the Alabama River, where they killed as many as 500 people, women and children among them.  News of that tragedy raised bitter cries for revenge.  The Tennessee legislature denounced the "horrid and inhuman murders" and called for proper "atonement," while frontier editors warned that "when the tomahawk and the scalping knife are drawn in the cabins of our peaceful and unsuspecting citizens, it is time, high time to prepare . . . for defense."

     At the head of 5,000 Tennessee and Kentucky militia, augmented by Cherokee, Choctaw, and Chickasaw warriors eager to punish their traditional Creek enemies, Jackson launched his long-awaited attack.  As he moved south, the ferocity of the fighting grew.  David Crockett, one of Jackson's soldiers, later reported that the militia volunteers shot down the Red Sticks "like dogs."  The Indians gave like measure in return.

     The climactic battle of the Creek War came in March 1814 at Horseshoe Bend, on the Tallapoosa River in central Alabama.  There in the fortified town of Tohopeka, 1,000 Creek warriors made their stand against 1,400 state troops and 600 Cherokee allies.  While American cannonfire raked the Creek defenses, the allied Cherokee crossed the river to cut off retreat.  In the battle that followed, over 800 Native Americans died, more than in any other single battle in the history of Indian-white warfare.  Jackson followed up his victory with a scorched-earth sweep through the remaining Red Stick towns.  With no hope left, Red Eagle, one of the few remaining Red Stick leaders, walked alone into Jackson's camp and addressed the American commander:

"General Jackson, I am not afraid of you.  I fear no man, for I am a Creek warrior.  I have nothing to request in behalf of myself; you can kill me if you desire.  But I come to beg you to send for the women and children of the war party, who are now starving in the woods . . . I am now done fighting."

     The Creek war was finished, and Jackson allowed Red Eagle to return home.

     But the general was not quite done.  In August 1814 he exacted his final revenge by constructing Fort Jackson on the Hickory Ground, the most sacred spot of the Creek nation.  Over the following months, he seized 22 million acres, nearly two-thirds of the Creek domain.  Before his Indian-fighting days were over, Jackson would acquire for the United States through treaty and military conquest nearly three-fourths of Alabama and Florida, a third of Tennessee, and a fifth of Georgia and Mississippi.

     Just as Tecumseh's death had signaled the end of Indian resistance in the North, so the Creek's defeat at Horseshoe Bend broke the back of Indian defenses in the South.  With all possibility of armed resistance gone, the Native Americans of the Old Southeast gave way before the swelling tide of white settlement.

From Gary B. Nash, et al., The American People: Creating a Nation and a Society, 3rd ed. (New York: HarperCollins, 1994), pp. 302-304.



     The world into which Bailey T. Baldwin was born in the year 1819 was in the midst of profound and wrenching changes.  Indian resistance to white land encroachment had just been crushed, and white immigrant families streamed into the region. 

     It is this history of Indian resistance and white land encroachment, along with other evidence, that leads us to suspect that Bailey may well have been part Native American Indian, perhaps Creek or Cherokee, and that his middle name was actually Tecumseh -- Bailey Tecumseh Baldwin.

     In the first half of the 1800s, the Red River Valley comprised the northernmost fringe of this vast Louisiana Territory.   The valley itself was inhabited by an ethnic amalgam of Indians, French and other Europeans, and Métis, or people of mixed French-Indian ancestry (both Ojibwe and Dakota [or Sioux] Métis).  As Meinig describes, by 1850 the valley's population of 5,000 was growing rapidly, its most recent Euro-American settlers building mills, schools, churches, a library, and other public facilities.  Most of the valley's inhabitants were poised to follow whatever economic and political path seemed best, and the route to St Paul offered to many a host of advantages over the old routes downriver, to the Lake of the Woods, and the Canadas.

     All this helps put into broader perspective the passages in the Modern Leather-Stocking Tale that describe Bailey & Margaret's early years in Minnesota Territory.  As we read in the article, Marguerite Bleau dit Rossignal (later Margaret Rushenall, or Margaret Baldwin)

" . . . was born near the Red River of the North, and her grandmothers on both sides were full-blooded Chippewas married to French husbands."


Tintype of Margaret Rushenall Baldwin at Fort Abercrombie, Dakota Territory, summer 1862.  Photograph courtesy of Jeane Morneau DeCoursey.


     The dramatic story of young Marguerite's foot journey to Pembina from St. Paul and back again in the fall of 1847, to fetch her family and bring them to St Paul, was thus part of a larger process of migration from the Red River Valley to the rapidly growing settlement along the Mississippi River -- all part of a larger reorientation of the Red River settlements away from Canada and toward St Paul and points south.

     In the year 1846, as we read in the "Modern Leather-Stocking Tale,"  23 year-old Marguerite Bleau dit Rossignal

. . . found enough inducement in St. Paul to wish to remain there during the winter, at least, and she resolved to return to Manitoba to bring her family.  She would like to have company on the journey back, but there was no one going north, and she must do it alone or give up her project.  It was not possible to hire a dog train, which was then the chief method of conveyance from one point to another, so she determined to walk to Manitoba alone.  It was a distance of 600 miles. . .  .

[Marguerite] at last reached Manitoba.  She . . . went to Pembina, where she found her father and mother and brothers and sister.  She prevailed upon them to return with her.  They hitched up one little cart in which the small children could ride, and they walked back to St. Paul.  That was the fall of 1847.


     Three years later, in 1850, the U.S. census would show Margaret Bleau and her family living in St. Paul.  Of course, they wouldn't have been there had Margaret not made this extraordinary 600-mile foot journey to fetch them:


Excerpt from the 1850 census, showing Margaret Bleau dit Rosignal and her family in St. Paul, Minnesota Territory


     Meinig's account also helps us to better understand what the strapping 25 year-old Bailey T. Baldwin encountered when he arrived in Minnesota Territory from the conflict-ridden zones of northern Alabama.  Again we read from the "Modern Leather-Stocking Tale":

In the spring of 1845 B. T. Baldwin was among those who came from the South to the new trading post at St. Paul.  He had lived in Alabama, brought up among the Southerners of the Southland, and he was eager to try his luck in the North, even though his fortunes should be among the much dreaded Indians.  Six years later, in 1851, he wooed and won the widow of Bazill Bottineau [Marguerite Bleau dit Rosignal Bottineau], and he gave her little son a home with her.


     Bailey T. Baldwin, 5' 11" tall and of robust constitution, worked as an overland trader between the Red River settlements and St. Paul for at least ten or eleven years, from his arrival in 1845 until at least 1856, as we read in the following passages from the "Modern Leather-Stocking Tale":

In the year '56 Baldwin fitted up a train of goods, and with his wife and children went north to Pembina to trade for furs with the Indians.  Margaret Baldwin was ill during the winter, and she was anxious to come back to St. Paul.  The collector of customs, who was making ready to come to St. Paul with a dog team, offered to take Mrs. Baldwin with him, and told Baldwin that if he would remain and be the deputy collector and postmaster he would see the wife safe home.  They started with three dogs hauling the woman and two children, and two dogs to haul the baggage and provisions.  They were driven by one of her brothers to Crow Wing, where they took the stage for St. Paul.  Baldwin paid $50 for the five dogs to carry his wife and babies, at the same time 18 or 20 dog trains made the trip, so there was no lack of company.  The dogs returned to Pembina loaded with goods.


Photograph of Red River trading carts loading at a trading house in St Paul, Minnesota Territory, 1854.  By this time, Bailey T. Baldwin had spent nearly a decade making the circuit between Pembina and St Paul.  It is possible, if exceedingly unlikely, that one of the individuals portrayed in this photograph is Bailey T. Baldwin.  From


Indian Wars & Treaties in Minnesota, 1850s-1870s

     In 1851, three years before the above photo was taken, an infamous series of treaties between the federal government and the Dakota Indians of Minnesota accelerated the process of usurping Dakota Indian lands east and south of the Red River Valley.  As we read in the following excerpt from the e-museum of Minnesota State University at Mankato:

Treaties concluded at Traverse des Sioux and Mendota with the Dakota Indians whereby the Dakota ceded their lands east of the Red River, Lake Traverse, and the Big Dakota River and south of a boundary line between the Dakota and Chippewa in 1825. In return the Dakota received $1,665,000 US, $1,360,000 of which was set into a trust fund, of which the interest would be distributed to chiefs partly in cash, partly in supplies, and partly in education and civilization funds. The vast majority ended up being used to pay off Indian debts to white traders.  (quoted from


     This was all part of a larger process by which the federal government forcibly usurped Indian lands in the years and decades after the Revolutionary War and, in Louisiana and later Minnesota Territory, after the War of 1812.  The government's failure to fulfill its part of the bargain in these and other treaties led directly to the Great Sioux Indian Uprising of 1862, in which Margaret & Bailey Baldwin played a direct if marginal role from besieged Fort Abercrombie on the Red River, not far from Pembina. 

     This process of usurping Indian lands in 19th century Minnesota is summarized graphically in the following map:


Dispossession of Indian Lands in Minnesota, 1837-1889, following treaties between the federal government and diverse Indian groups, from  Copyright 1997 by Paula Giese.


     Below are thumbnails of the 1851 treaty between the federal government and the Sisseton and Wahpeton Bands of the Dakota:


1851 Treaty between the the Sisseton and Wahpeton Dakota and the US government, from the Oklahoma State University Library
URL:  Click on images for larger view.

     And the 1851 treaty with the Mdewakanton and Wahpakoota Dakota:


1851 Treaty between the the Mdewakanton and Wahpakoota Dakota and the US government, from the Oklahoma State University Library
URL:  Click on images for larger view.


     In the wake of these and other treaties, and especially the federal government's abject failure to adhere to the treaties' provisions, the stage was set for a new generation of radical Dakota leaders to take advantage the eruption of a civil war between white people (the Civil War) to launch a rebellion and, they hoped, expel the white people once and for all and regain their lands and dignity. 

     These, in a nutshell, are the origins of the Great Sioux Uprising of 1862.

      Meanwhile, for white settlers land was plentiful.  On April 3, 1857, five years before the Great Sioux Uprising, Bailey T. Baldwin purchased from the federal government 83 acres just outside Stillwater, a small hamlet east of St Paul along the St. Croix River, as seen in the following document kindly provided by Ruthanne Fresonke:

Grant of "the west half of the northwest quarter of Section 31 in Township 32 north of Range 21, west, in the district of lands subject to sale at Stillwater, Territory of Minnesota" to Bailey T. Baldwin and George Worts, 3 April 1857.  Document courtesy of Ruthanne Fresonke. Click on image for larger view.


     What Bailey ended up doing with this land is anyone's guess.  He probably sold it soon after, so he could purchase another parcel in Anoka, along the Mississippi River north of St Paul.


Panoramic Map of Anoka, MN, 1869


     Why do we say that?  Because the 1860 census shows Bailey, Margaret, and their extended family -- including Aiken and Felix Bleau -- along with a slew of other French-Canadians, living and working as farmers in Columbus Township, Anoka.  In the late 1850s, Anoka became a magnet for the French-Indian population displaced from Pembina and the Red River, as suggested in the City of Centerville's official (and sanitized) account of the city's early history:



Centerville honors its history and heritage 

     This was the main rest stop between Stillwater and Anoka in the earliest days of the Minnesota territory.  Today, we celebrate Centerville's rich French-Canadian heritage at the annual summer celebration called Fete des Lacs, which is French for Festival of Lakes. Residents and visitors gather at festival activities all over town to eat, dance, watch a parade, play softball and watch fireworks. . . .

     Before the French-Canadian settlers established the town of Centerville in the mid-1800's, Dakota Indians lived here in the 1600s and 1700s. At that time, this area was covered with dense woodlands and many square miles of marshes, lakes, and waterways.

     The natural habitat provided the Dakota with an abundant food supply, including wild rice and a wide variety of game and fish. They traveled the waterways by canoe, reaching the St. Croix River to the east and the Mississippi River to the west.

     The Dakotas abandoned their settlement in the late 1700's, but returned annually to harvest wild rice. The French-Canadian settlers found burial mounds and artifacts. Many items were excavated and removed from the area before they could be studied.

     In the 1940s, archaeologist Harold Kohlepp examined and recorded over a thousand artifacts that still remained in Centerville, including pottery, tools, and arrowheads. He published his findings in an archeology journal, with Centerville featured on the cover.

French-Canadian Settlement

     The abundance of wildlife attracted many trappers and hunters in the early 1800s. In 1850, F. W. Traves built the first house here. Soon after, families from Canada arrived and settled here because it reminded them of their former homeland [and because the violent usurpation of their ancestral lands by land-hungry settlers and the federal government left them few other viable options -- MJS]. Several descendants of these original French-Canadian settlers still live in Centerville.

     In 1854, settlers Peltier, LaValle, and LaMotte laid out and platted the town. They chose the name Centerville because of its central location from St. Paul, Stillwater, and Anoka. The city was officially established on August 11, 1857, when Minnesota was still a territory.

     The downtown area of Centerville was originally known as the French Section. German immigrants settled farther to the west in what is now part of the city of Lino Lakes. The pioneers cleared the land for farming and agriculture, which became the focus of the area's economy. Businesses that supported agriculture followed.  Residents formed the Church of St. Genevieve of Paris. . . .

(Adapted from City of Centerville,



     Sadly, this is among the most detailed descriptions of Anoka's history that can be found on the Web, and it's not much.  We need to learn more about Anoka County's history from the 1840s to the 1870s -- especially eastern Anoka County and the townships of Columbus and Centerville.

    The following map helps us to visualize the spatial relationships between Centerville, St. Paul, Stillwater, and Northeast Minneapolis -- the latter where Bailey & Margaret lived from the early to mid-1870s until their deaths:


Adapted from an 1895 atlas, showing the spatial relationship between places significant in the lives & times of Bailey T. & Margaret Baldwin from the 1840s until their deaths.


     The year 1860 saw Bailey, Margaret, their two children Lucy and William, and Margaret's brothers Aiken and Felix Bleau (along with one Charles Baldwin) living in Columbus Township, Anoka County (just north of Centerville):


Excerpt of 1860 census showing Bailey & Margaret Baldwin & family in Columbus Twp, Anoka County MN; click on image for larger view.


      Then came the Civil War, Bailey's enlistment, the Great Sioux Indian Uprising, and all of the dramatic events of the 1860s, explored in greater detail in the bailey t. baldwin pension file and other items relating to the Civil War on the documents page.

     One result of the Great Uprising was another treaty -- the Treaty with the Chippewa -- Red Lake and Pembina Bands of 1863 -- often called the Pembina Treaty.  Here is the full text:


Pembina Treaty.  1863 Treaty between the Chippewa -- Red Lake and Pembina Bands and the U.S. Government, from the Oklahoma State University Library
URL:  Click on images for larger view.


     (Note that Pierre Bottineau, the brother-in-law of Margaret Bleau dit Rossignal Bottineau Baldwin, was a signatory to this treaty -- not as a tribal leader but as a kind of intermediary between white people and Indian peoples, and as witness to the event.)

     Article 8 of this 1863 treaty reads in part:

It is hereby agreed that the United States shall grant to each adult male half-breed or mixed-blood who is related by blood to the said Chippewas of the said Red Lake or Pembina Bands who has adopted the habits and customs of civilized life, and who is a citizen of the United States, a homestead of one hundred and sixty acres of land . . .


     This is the section of the Pembina Treaty that explains Margaret Baldwin's receipt of three pieces of "Halfbreed Scrip," for 160 acres each, in March 1873 and April 1874.  According to documents housed in the National Archives, the federal government issued to Margaret Baldwin "Halfbreed Scrip No. 145" on March 15, 1873, and "Halfbreed Scrip No. 351" on April 21, 1874 -- each piece of scrip worth 160 acres of land -- as documented on, a website devoted to Ojibwe [Chippewa] genealogy:



Rasignol, Margaret Blue Baldwin

    Birth Date: about 1823
    Death Date: 31 March 1900 (77 years old)
    Note:  NAME: Bottineau, Margaret (ABT 1823 - March 31, 1900) [VRA #12s]
    Note:  NAME: Baldwin, Margaret (WE-3304) [Powell 8/0059]
    Note:  NAME: Rasignol, Margaret [R.L. Scrip #145/heir & 373/heir]
    Note:  GENEALOGY: Minnesota Historical Society, R.J. Powell Papers, Microf. M-455, Roll 8, Powell Genealogies
    Note:  "HALFBREED"_LAND_SCRIP: National Archives, RG 75, Entry 363, "List of Persons to Whom Scrip was Issued under Red Lake & Pembina Treaties...." Halfbreed Scrip No. 351 issued April 21, 1874, under the authority of Secretarial Decision, April 18, 1874, delivered April 21, 1874 [notation: heir of Blow, Antoine Sr."]; Halfbreed Scrip No. 145 issued to Margaret Rasignole, heir of Augustin, March 14, 1873, under the authority of Secretarial Decision, March 8, 1873, delivered March 15, 1873; and Halfbreed Scrip No. 373 issued to Margaret Rasignole, heir of Joseph, on April 21, 1874, under the authority of Secretarial Decision, April 18, 1974, delivered APR 21, 1874.
    Note:  "HALFBREED"_LAND_SCRIP: National Archives, RG 75, Entry 364, "Treaty of April 12, 1864, Red Lake and Pembina Half-Breeds," Scrip Stubs, Number 351, dated April 21, 1874, 160 Acres, delivered April 21, 1874, issued to "Margaret Blow, heir of Antoine Sr.," delivered to Agt. Douglass
    Note:  "HALFBREED"_LAND_SCRIP: National Archives, RG 75, Entry 364, "Treaty of April 12, 1864, Red Lake and Pembina Half-Breeds," Scrip Stubs, Number 145 [checked], dated March 14, 1873, 160 Acres, delivered March 15, 1873, issued to "Margaret Rasignole, heir of Augustin Rasignole," delivered to Agt. E.P. Smith; and Number 373, dated April 21, 1874, 160 Acres, delivered April 21, 1874, issued to "Margaret Rasignole, heir of Joseph," delivered to Agt. Douglass
    Note:  GENEALOGY COMPILED BY VIRGINIA ROGERS: Ah-Dick Songab Genealogy, #12, she was Original Allottee 3304 (WE-3304) on the White Earth Reservation, MN
    Note:  NAME: Blow, Margaret [R.L. Scrip]
    Note:  NAME: Blow, Margaret [R.L. Scrip]
    Note:  NAME: Baldwin, Margaret (ABT 1823 - March 31, 1900) [VRA #12s]
    Note:  NAME: Blue, Margaret (ABT 1823 - March 31, 1900) [VRA #12s]
    Note:  NAME: Rasignol, Margaret (ABT 1823 - March 31, 1900) [VRA #12s] [R.L. Scrip #351/heir]
    Reference: WE-3304

Source:  Adapted from www.Ojibwe.Info, a site devoted to Ojibwe [Chippewa] genealogy


     This whole half-breed scrip business is explored at some length here

     Within a few short years Bailey, Margaret, and their family would give up their rural farming life and move to the grit and grime of rapidly developing Northeast Minneapolis, where they lived for the rest of their lives.


The Red River Rebellion, 1869-1870

     Around the same time, major changes were afoot in the Red River Valley.  In the box below we cite the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online on Louis Riel and the Red River Rebellion of 1869-1870:


     Following is an article on the Riel Rebellion from the Journal of Canadian Studies, Summer 1995, by James Patterson Smith:


     And here is a link to a pretty extensive e-book collection at the University of Calgary, many of which deal directly with the Red River troubles of the late 1860s and early 1870s:


Métis Histories & Cultures

In progress . . .


the MÉtis Diaspora, 1860s-1890s

In progress . . .

Preliminary bibliography on the Métis and the history of the Red River settlement:

Keith Wilson, Life at Red River, 1830-1860 (Toronto: Ginn and Co., 1970)

Douglas N. Sprague, The Genealogy of the First Métis Nation: The Development and Dispersal of the Red River Settlement, 1820-1900 (Winnipeg: Pemmican Publications, 1983)

Douglas N. Sprague, Canada and the Métis, 1869-1885, foreword by Thomas R. Berger (Waterloo, Ontario: Wilfred Laurier University Press, 1988)

Gerhard John Ens, Homeland to Hinterland:  The Changing Worlds of the Red River Métis in the Nineteenth Century (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1996). 

 Spatial representation of the Red River Métis diaspora;



     We conclude with one of the classic love songs of the nineteenth century, and one that seems to speak directly to Marguerite Bleau dit Rosignal Bottineau Baldwin (imagine her singing this plaintive goodbye to her husband Basile Bottineau in the late 1840s, before his journey West for the Hudson's Bay Company, the journey that ended in his death  . . . .)


Fur Trade Version of the Song

          "Red River Valley"        

(here once again is a cheesy but endearing version of the melody to this lovely song:


From this valley they say you are going,
I will miss your sweet face and sweet smile,
Just because you are weary and tired,
You are changing your range for a while.

Then come sit here a while 'ere you leave me,
Do not hasten to bid me adieu
But remember the Red River Valley
And the girl that has loved you so true.

I've been thinking a long time, my darling,
Of the sweet words you never would say,
Now alas, must my fond hopes all vanish?
For they say you are going away.

When you think of the valley you're leaving
Oh how lonely and drear it it would be,
When think of the fond heart you're breaking
And the pain you are causing to me.

From this valley they say you are going;
When you go, may your darling go too?
Would you leave her behind unprotected
When she loves no other but you?

I have promised you darling that never,
Shall the words from my lips cause you pain;
And my life is still your's forever,
If you only will love me again.

Must the past with it's joys be blighted
By the future of sorrow and pain,
And the vows that were spoken be slighted?
Don't you think, you can love me again?

As you go to your home by the ocean
May you never forget those sweet hours
That we spent in the Red River Valley
And the love we exchanged 'mid the flowers

There never could be such a longing
In the heart of a poor maiden's breast,
That dwells in the heart you are breaking
As I wait in my home in the West.

And the dark maiden's prayer for her lover
To the Spirit that rules the world:
May his pathway be ever in sunshine,
Is the prayer of the Red River girl.

"Thanks to Richard Larson of the Fraser/Brazeau Metis Clan for [these] lyrics."




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Bleau dit rossignals and baldwins in minnesota, 1790s-1930s



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